What the heck?! How has it already been 2 years!?
If you are reading this I am going to guess you are one of these three types of people. 1. You are a future bride getting married soon. Hey you! 2. You are a past bride of ours and hopefully loved your experience with us and are now simply fans. You hopefully now follow because you like us as a business and still enjoy seeing all pretty things bridal. 3. You are one of my personal friends or family members who have been my cheerleaders for the past 2 years. Hi! I love you!
Let me introduce myself formally. My name is Cassie Cleary (note the name change since last year) and I am just a 28 year old local Spokane girl who dreamed up this shop 3 years ago. Last year for our first birthday, I did a blog post about Year One and you should read that here. Since that post, MANY exciting things have happened and I want to dish that all here. Here we go!
Since our first birthday last year (August 17, 2019), I got married. I got to be an actual bride! I had been with my husband for 7 years, but now married for almost 1. We met working at Camp Reed in Deer Park, WA. We were both summer camp counselors there all throughout college. We decided to have only a 4 month engagement because we both were incredible impatient. We got married on September 21st, 2019 out at Felts Field in an airplane hangar turned wedding venue. You can read my whole wedding blog post here! I wore 3 dresses because it really was impossible for me to pick just one Let me tell you, planning a wedding and running a bridal shop is like wedding overload. Every aspect of my life was about weddings for those 4 months and I have a new found respect for wedding planners. Summer is often a slower time for Honest in Ivory so planning during this time was pretty ideal.
In October 2019 I found out I was pregnant! With a girl! One of my first irrational worries about having a baby girl was that I hoped I dont desensitize her to dresses. I worried that she might get too used to them by coming to the store that they wouldnt be as special. I hope this never happens and she grows up loving dresses and the way they make you feel as much as I do. I was one of those unfortunate pregnant ladies with day-long morning sickness. I didnt let any of the stylists at the store know I was pregnant until I was 12 weeks along, so, I was miserable for many weeks still coming to the shop. I would show up late because I was so sick, or be really quiet because I was trying not to be sick. Lots of being sick. I would be having a lovely conversation with a group of customers at the store one minute, and then I would feel suddenly vile and have to come up with a weird reason to excuse myself from the conversation to go lay down in our back room or eat something. So, any customer that I was weird with last fall, I am sorry! They probably thought, Man, this stores owner is really odd and cant hold a conversation very long. I was SO secretly pregnant!
In February 2020, we hosted our Second Annual Galentines Fashion Show right in our store. We had 9 beautifully diverse women strutting their stuff in 50+ of our favorite dresses for the upcoming season. Before the event, our General Admission ticket sales sold out in 2 days! This was the last big event we were able to have since covid.
A week after the fashion show we got the amazing opportunity to take a trip to Kansas City for a buying trip for 3 of our favorite collections: Essense of Australia, Martina Liana, and All Who Wander. Any of my stylists who ever go to a buying trip with me know that I can get a little fanatical about picking out the dresses. My initial impulse is to buy EVERYTHING. I oooh and ahhh and everything, the pitch of my voice gets higher I just cant help it. We only carry designers in the store that we really really love, so when a collection of 50 dresses come out and we have to pick the top 5-8 to carry in our store, it is really hard. The impulsive side of me wants to buy all 50, every last one of them, and then I am reminded that there is only so much square footage in our shop and they just simply wont all fit. I bring along stylists with me because they get to spend the most time actually in bridal appointments, listening to exactly what our brides want. As the shop owner, so much of time is spent working on everything behind the scenes, and barely any time in actual appointments. So, they truly are the best at picking out ultimately what dresses would kill in our shop. Jeez, are they good at that. At these buying trips we have made friends with other brides shop owners and stylists from across the country. It is so fun to catch up over a cocktail (a mocktail for me at that time) and compare notes on which dresses we picked out for our stores. I was almost 5 months pregnant at this point and was excited to show all my bridal shop owner friends my little baby bump.
If you read the Year One blog post, you already know that I also still work part-time as a speech language pathologist. I still feel really passionate about that career too. Since opening Honest in Ivory I have felt like I had 2 hats, one for each job, and I would just take them on and off depending on the day. This often led to 60+ hour work weeks, which with a baby coming, I knew was not sustainable. We hired on a new assistant manager at the store, which freed up more of my time to come into the shop a little later sleep a little moretake Sundays off. It was on of those great Sunday mid-afternoon naps that I had the craziest dream that I made one corner of the store a consignment store. I named it Dearly, because it sounded like David and Cleary, a mash-up of my maiden and new married last name. That next week, our property manager called to ask if we would be interested in renting out the 1,000 sq ft adjoining space if we needed storage or anything like that. And, that week we had received 3 separate phone calls from our past brides asking if we bought back dresses after we were done with them. It seemed like quite the coincidence that I was receiving so many signs that Dearly had to happen so we did it. I had dreamed it up to be styled really funky. Warm colors like pink, yellow, coral, gold, reds. This is quite the contrast to the bright whites and soft pastels in the decor of Honest in Ivory. We called it a funky little sister store. Youve got to check out our Dearly instagram highlight to see the transformation of that space. It is something else.
This is me visiting the lonely store a week before we were able to reopen. I am 36 weeks pregnant here and delivered 2 weeks later.
We were all set to open Dearly April 1st, and then covid happened. Covid threw a wrench in a lot of things. I am not going to dive into the medical or political implications of this pandemic, but I will share what it meant for us as a business. It meant that I had to furlough all 8 of my employees. I got a flood of brides telling us they were crushed that their weddings were cancelled or postponed. Many of them talked about the guilt they felt about being sad that they had to change their wedding plans, even though they knew it was the safest decision for their guests. For their elderly grandparents. Our store was officially closed for 8 weeks. I hauled one of the Honest in Ivory computers to my home and diverted all deliveries there as well. It drove my husband crazy the amount of gown packages we received in a day. Some days I received anywhere from 5-10 massive boxes that clogged up our entry way and living room. At this point, I am now 7 months pregnant so guess who had to move all those boxes? With my sweet labradoodle, Ruby, now my only coworker, sleeping at my feet under my new home office desk, I worked for 2 months on tracking down brides orders that were delayed due to designers being shut down, answering anxious brides emails, and rescheduling bridal appointments for when we hoped to reopen. I was used to those 60+ hour work weeks, so the quarantine forced me to slow the heck down. I started nesting for my baby girl. Her nursery was ready 2 months early because I had almost too much time on my hands.
During quarantine, our Honest in Ivory staff group text would be filled each week with videos or photos of the fun things we were doing to pass the time. Lots of glasses of wine and Netflix pictures from them, lots of tea, and pictures of my massive belly from me. A few days a week my husband and I would go work on finishing up Dearly so that we would open up as soon as Spokane was able to move into Phase 2.
As we got closer to early June, when the governor had announced we would hopefully be give the green light for retail to reopen again, I was also nearing the end of my pregnancy. I was able to bring back on 2 stylists to start with curbside gown pick ups again and transferring all the work of brides orders off to them. My husband and I did not share our daughters name with anyone before she was born, and this drove the stylists crazy. You should have heard some of the wild guesses they came up with. I gave them one clue, that her name was also the name of one of the dresses in the store. This narrowed the name down to 300 of our dresses, but still, it was a hint. I gave birth to my sweet little 6 lbs 4 oz baby girl, Rowan Josephine, on June 4th, just as Spokane started Phase 2. This was not ideal timing, as I had hoped to be available to my staff as we started this totally new chapter of retail, but thats just not something anyone can control. But, they were totally fine without me while I recovered for a few days. I was needlessly worried.
When we opened back up, it was so exciting to see our brides again. The entire store had felt empty and too quiet without any customers for so long. It was lovely to hear the the chatter of customers fill the store again. More yes moments happening again. We have to limit the brides guests to only 2 to keep the social distancing and limited occupancy mandate, but this hasnt stopped our brides from still having that stellar wedding dress shopping experience they were hoping for.
Dearly opened with a BANG. We opened with ~50 sample dresses from Honest in Ivory at a 30-60% off, and began consigning dresses too. We have found that Dearly is perfect for the bride who wants a dress right off-the-rack to get married ASAP. We are seeing lots of elopements from our Dearly brides, brides who arent wanting to wait the 3-5 months for a special order dress to be made like you do at Honest in Ivory. Initially, I thought planning to open a new expansion to my business during a pandemic was horrible timing, but it turns out it was perfect. Perfect for those brides whose finances have changed due to covid and want a designer dress on sale, or who want it right away. I definitely didnt see that coming.
With a new baby, I have decided to keep working from home. I get to facetime, text, or email the girls back at the store each day. If they werent so amazing, both as people and as employees, I dont know what I would have done. They are spectacular.
This time last year, at our First Anniversary, we planned a huge celebration. We had over 500 people come by to celebrate our first birthday with us, a huge bash that spilled into our parking lot with 10 other local wedding vendors adding to our party. This year, that simply cannot happen. I am going to be celebrating from home, cuddling my sweet baby girl, toasting with a glass of champagne (man, did I miss champagne while I was pregnant!) with my husband, to year TWO. I feel really grateful for all our customers who decided to support a local, small business this past year instead of shopping at a faceless online store. That is a really big deal.
Cheers to what the heck will happen in year three!
Cassie Cleary, owner of Honest in Ivory & Dearly Consignment Bridal Shop